Not Angles but angels

According to the Venerable Bede, the evangelisation of the southern English was proposed by a Pope with a pun.  In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People,  the story goes that Pope Gregory I was walking through the market of Rome when he saw some slave boys with striking looks and hair.  What people, he…

Scorpio, that is suffering: a natural history of a medieval Zodiac symbol

It’s incredibly frustrating when you know you have read something somewhere and can’t remember where.  Such as the time I read an article or book which made an excellent point about Anglo-Saxon zodiac illustrations. Most medieval psalters and other liturgical books begin with a calendar, the primary purpose of which is to list the feasts…

The Vespasian Psalter

As mentioned in my last post, I have a new publication out – an entry in the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature in Britain, on the Vespasian Psalter, the manuscript now shelved as London, British Library Cotton MS Vespasian A. i.  So how better to celebrate this than by dedicating a blogpost to the manuscript…

Bizarre beasts and naked acrobats! A look inside the Winchcombe Psalter

In recent months, I have been tweeting the occasional image from a manuscript shelved as Cambridge, University Library MS Ff. 1. 23, known as the Winchcombe Psalter.  Intrigued by its miniatures, its bilingual nature, and the rather bizarre initials which are used to open the psalms, I have found myself coming back to this manuscript…

Keep fit with medieval Pilates

Good morning, everyone!  Feeling energised today?  I’ve been trying to wake myself up in the mornings by doing a little bit of Pilates first thing.  Years of sitting at a computer poring over medieval prayers have left me horribly unbendy, so I’ve been taking classes for over a year now in order to get a…

Have mercy, guide me, guard me: an eighth- (and eleventh-) century prayer

It’s Lent, and time for something a bit more penitential than some of the glorious manuscripts and linguistic fun that I have been writing about in recent posts.  It happens that a lot of my current work (adapting my doctoral thesis for publication) has been on confessional prayers of various kinds, which is pretty convenient. …

Quid gloriaris? Psalm 51 in early medieval manuscripts

Quid gloriaris in malitia, qui potens es in iniquitate?  Why do you glory in malice, you who are mighty in iniquity?  Whatever the answer to the question posed in Psalm 51, it was important enough that medieval illuminators opened it with a glorious display page of its very own.  This is because the 150 psalms…

Beati illuminatores: meeting a manuscript

Recently, I have been doing research on the prayers added to late Anglo-Saxon psalters, for which I paid a short visit to the Bodleian Library in Oxford a couple of months ago.  While I was there, I thought I might as well take the chance to look at a manuscript which I have mentioned in…